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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Wimbledon serves Linux volley
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent

The Wimbledon tennis tournament will be relying on Linux and Grid computing to keep everything running smoothly during the two weeks of the championship.

Groundsman at Wimbledon, PA
Preparations for Wimbledon are well under way
Following a pilot project in 2003, the internal computer network at the All-England Club has been converted to the open source operating system.

The change means that both the public-facing website for Wimbledon and its internal intranet are now using Linux.

Mark McMurrugh, Wimbledon project director for IBM, says Linux was first used during the tournament in 1999 and, since then, more and more of the infrastructure has been converted.

Formerly the internal network was based around IBM's own flavour of the Unix operating system.

Portable power

IBM has turned to Linux to help it manage, amongst other things, the ebb and flow of visitors to the Wimbledon website.

The so-called Grid computing techniques will let IBM bring online more computer power needed to cope with peak visiting hours on the tournament website.

Last year the official Wimbledon website served up more than 27 million pages to visitors.

Crowd scene at Wimbledon, BBC
We collect these statistics because people have asked for the information, whether that's a player or because commentators find it useful
Mark McMurrugh, IBM
Mr McMurrugh says that the hi-tech look of 2004 stands in stark contrast to 15 years ago, when computers were first used to gather information during the tournament.

Back then, says Mr McMurrugh, courtside scorers used six IBM PS2 computers to log what was happening during matches.

Although sold as portable computers they were more correctly described as "luggable", says Mr McMurrugh.

The information gathered with the old PCs was used to create graphics for BBC TV coverage, he says.

"In 1990 we had six or seven statistics such as score, servers, whether the first serve was in and stuff like that," says Mr McMurrugh.

But in 2004 courtside watchers are gathering information on 90 statistics many of which can have up to 80 different parameters.

Now, as well as noting who was serving and where the ball landed in the court, the courtside data collaters note how it was returned, the kind of shot used, how a point was won or lost and whether it was due to a forced or unforced error.

"We collect these statistics because people have asked for the information, whether that's a player or because commentators find it useful," says Mr McMurrugh.

Commentators are fed a screen full of statistics that they can call on to make graphics during TV coverage and to help viewers understand what is happening during a match.

Handheld extras

IBM is also planning hi-tech extras for VIPs, guests and committee members during the two weeks of the tournament.

Boris Becker, AP
Becker won in the year computers arrived at Wimbledon
Mr McMurrugh said IBM had prepared a Pocket Wimbledon for the 60-70 PDAs that will be given to these special guests.

The PDAs, which will be O2's XDA, will give users access to scores, statistics, biographies and plot their position on an interactive map of the All England Club.

Data will be sent to the PDAs via the wi-fi network installed around Wimbledon for the tournament. Mr McMurrugh said IBM is also trialling the sending of video streams of matches to the handheld computers.

Some of the biggest users of the wi-fi network will be the journalists and photographers covering the tournament.

Journalists can access the statistical service via wi-fi links instead of having to sit near dedicated screens away from the court.

"The pilot last year was very successful for photographers on court taking pictures," says Mr MCMurrugh. "They could wirelessly transmit them to a content server that could then be accessed by photo agencies."

Instead of it taking hours to get pictures from Wimbledon to agencies, the wireless service meant they could arrive in minutes.

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